Social Media Consumers More Likely to Buy, Recommend

For those skeptics who don’t believe that Social Media has a measurable impact:

According to a study conducted by research firms Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies, two-thirds (67%) of consumers who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to buy those brands after becoming a follower, and 51% of Facebook fans are more likely to buy after becoming a fan. Moreover, 79% of those who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to recommend those brands after following them, and 60% of Facebook fans say the same for Facebook.

Analytics saving California Social Services Agency Millions

I know lots of companies that don’t measure the performance of their websites or enewsletters. On colleague of mine told me that he had a “gut feeling” about what works for his company.

However, when you look at what you can learn from studying your stats, it’s eye-opening. Many of my clients are truly surprised to find out what information their constituencies find most interesting, which pages on their sites get the most traffic, and which of their pearls of wisdom are generally ignored!

Now the Alameda County, Calif., Social Services Agency  has found that using analytics can save taxpayers a lot of money.

In July of 2009 the county agency launched a $1.5 million business intelligence and analytics package from IBM that integrates six systems in order to give caseworkers a nearly real-time look at how and when clients are using various social services.

Bingo! This is the beauty of information shared on the web. You can measure it. You can track responses, view traffic patterns and look at referring urls.

Now, you don’t have to spend $1.5 million to do so. In fact, for someone just starting out, a free program such as Google Analytics is a good start. I use it for several of my own sites and for client sites.

As a result of what we’ve learned from collecting data over a period of time one of my clients redesigned their site and changed the type of information that they presented. For example, we found that the FAQs section of the site drew the most visitors. As a result, we started putting the information that we felt was most important for customers to know in that section. We also found that there was an enormous need for basic educational information which drove us to create several tutorials.

As for e-newsletters, knowing which topics attract the most readers is valuable from an overall perspective but critical for sales people who want to learn more about the customers in their territories.

I think that one of the greatest barriers to installing analytics programs is that people are afraid what the measurements will show; that their programs aren’t performing as well as they should. My take on this is different. To measurably demonstrate the value that public relations and marketing communications adds to a company you must be able to provide the data and you must establish a benchmark for your current success. After all, you can’t improve your outreach if you don’t know there’s a problem.

Who’s Using Which Browsers? And why does it Matter?

Browser compatibility is one of the trickiest issues in web site design. Just because a site looks great in Firefox (which is apparently programmer-friendly) or IE7 doesn’t mean that it works well (or even at all) in IE6 or IE8. As for Safari, Chrome, Mozilla and Sea Monkey (!), you have to decide whether the number of visitors requires compatibility testing.

You would think that blanket compatibility, at least of the major browsers,  would be top of every web designers list of “Must Haves”. Sadly, I found this isn’t always the case — it’s something that needs to be written into the contract and then tested, tested and tested again.

Last year I worked on a Website for a client where the site looked great in Firefox and IE7. The problem was that they used IE6 in their office and in that browser, they couldn’t see the entire page so important information appeared to be left off. The programmer’s initial response? They need to upgrade their browser. I think not!

This year I had a client who had a Website that worked perfectly in everything except IE7. If it was an obscure browser like Sea Monkey, maybe it wouldn’t be an issue but according to my own tracking, IE7 is still the most popular browser on the market. The programmer’s response? We’ll fix it in the next phase. I think not! Browser compatibility is integral to the success of your clients’ websites. It’s not something you get to later. I understand that each version of Internet Explorer has specific programming requirements, but absolute conformance just needs to be part of the completed job.

Who uses what browser depends a lot on your target audience. Consumers tend to upgrade their browsers frequently than large corporations, where IT departments generally standardize the use of a particular browser company wide.  I know several companies that still use IE6 (with no immediate plans to upgrade) even though IE8 is gaining market share.

While there are mass statistics that dictate browser share, I monitor the visitors on my own and my clients’ sites to give me a finger on the pulse of the industries that I serve. I’ve found that my figures are not much of the mark as those reported in Wikipedia.

For example, here are the trends I’ve seen over the past year for one of my clients, which is in the telecommunications industry. The people viewing their site are fairly technical, international in scope, and many work for larger companies.

Here are the stats for visitors to their site during the past 30 days:

Browser share over the past 30 days

This chart shows browser share over the past 30 days. IE is by far the most dominant browser. More than 63% use IE with Firefox at just under 30%.

This graph shows the breakdown of the different IE Versions.

This graph shows the breakdown of the different IE Versions. No surprise -- IE7 is the predominant browser with 48.5%, but IE6 still enjoys heavy usage for an "old" browser at 33%, and IE8 adoption is up to 18%, a significant increase since the beginning of the year.

IE8 usage has grown considerably since the beginning of the year.

Look at the stats from Jan '09. Just six months ago, fewer than 2% of our visitors were using IE8. Interestingly, IE6 usage is pretty consistent; IE7 had a larger share of the browser market.

So, what’s the bottom line? Don’t underestimate the longevity of the major browser versions. Make sure that your clients’ websites work on all of them. Browser testing should be done by your web designer or firm, but it’s a good idea to check for yourself. I generally have the current versions of Firefox and IE on my computer but there are resources on-line that can help you look at some of the versions not immediately available.

Here are two that I’ve used: lets you look at your website in a large number of platforms (some of which I’ve never heard of!) You can look at a limited number of screen shots for free. lets you see your website using any browser and any operating system.

Lead Generation is the Bottom Line

What are clients looking for today? Lead generation. Not impressions, not visibility, not any of the intangible leadership positioning that they would have embraced in prior years.

Right now they want names, titles and contact information so they can convert those interested parties into customers.

And who can blame them? Almost every company I know is cutting staff. Recently I went to a meeting that had been scheduled less than two weeks earlier and found that one of the two people I’d been planning to meet with was gone . . . and the other looked nervous.

So how do you deliver what your clients need? One effective way to garner names is to give away information in exchange for registration: Webinars, white papers and “how to” information is highly sought after, especially as remaining employees are working harder to be smarter and more productive. Contests are also an excellent way to capture names. Your best tool in this regard is your Web site. Use it effectively and you can cultivate prospects and engage existing customers without a large budget or a large staff.

When your client becomes an industry resource, you can help them stay relevant and stay in touch with all those prospects that might become customers.

Is the Paper Newsletter a Thing of the Past?

Recently I had cause to change the service I use to produce HTML newsletters and I was amazed by how many options are now available. Just a few years ago, the choices were limited: if you didn’t know html or have a designer on staff, there were only a few companies that offered solutions with good templates and WYSIWYG software. Not any more! With the options that are now available, there’s no longer any excuse for not integrating an electronic newsletter into your program.

There are several compelling reasons to choose an electronic newsletter over print.

  1. Measurability. With an electronic newsletter you know who received it, who opened it and what they read. It’s a real eye-opener when you find out what topics your readers really care about and it allows you to leverage that knowledge by making your outreach tools more relevant.
  2. Interactivity. Print newsletters are just another way that we push information on readers. An electronic newsletter enables you to create a dialogue with your readers. It’s simple now to insert surveys, enable direct purchases, or enter promotions.
  3. Integration. Your newsletter is part of your image. An electronic newsletter allows you to create actual links among your communications outreach tools to bring the reader full circle. Most important is that the electronic newsletter helps drive traffic to your company – or client – web site, where they can get more information about your products or services. Plus, you can archive your old newsletters on the Web site, keeping that information just a click away.
  4. Cost. No printing and no postage. Need we say more? See how to choose a supplier (below) for more on distribution costs.
    Timely information. HTML newsletters typically allow you to get news out faster because the production time is so much shorter.

What’s the downside of going electronic? The only one I can think of is that people no longer have the paper in their hands. This can be a problem when your customers are not comfortable reading information on a computer screen or when they use downtime such as airline travel to read the newsletter.